NOTES FROM MY NEW COUNTRY
After Suji Kwock Kim
are tragically far north
dispossessed of home.
future graves with hands
within chromatic crystal walls.
their foreign prayers
places in the fire.
in a country silenced
by sin smoke.
snuffs out light hidden
in immigrant throats,
the language ash
dried as salt
torn. Gracias, I plead
together, we can breathe
together, we can dress
this home, our wound.
Thank you, te ruego
so our children
and our ghosts
READING VARELA AT ROCK CREEK PARK
Cherry blossoms surround a tamarack hide under my pride swamp.
I understand the creek is wider this time of year as the hours lose their watch
I step towards the creek, take a step back, a necessary shuffling
for my reflection to break the creek’s concentration
This park is my favorite place to hide, from responsibilities, my desires, and the old grief of my red house.
Here I thought my skin could be ironbark, a hide within my hide.
Blanca Varela lived near here for three short years, just two miles west
from where I rolled a spliff on her Rough Song. Canto Villano suena mejor
Her celestial words fed my poverty built on car bombs
her raven murdered house so far, so far from where I first heard her cantar
This park is my favorite place to cry. When I was forced to resign,
I rushed here to the same rock where I cried my best friend’s death.
Students, It was not your fault or mine. I am sorry I never said goodbye.
Though the walls contained us, I could no longer teach you,
math stray from the music we cannot see again
An obsession with art overcomes a classroom-bound man
All I can tell you now is when I have a Peruvian book in hand
the dogs come back; they overflow the page
They feast, they are a carcass, a caress, a savant, they hang from lamp posts
their bodies feed the crabs of Callao, they become cardboard color ghosts
I truly hope heaven is not mute
Blanca admired Kafka. She reigned over the page and gifted him a poem, No date.
all I can tell you now is I loved my students just like that.
FIELD TRIP II
Obsessions drive hands-on canvas
over pens, across bodies
my eyes into the person
contained within the frame
measure for measure
less than a foot squared
I know a seamstress who lives here
Carefree is her affection
her hands precise on textile
The pink of the window interrupts
the patterns that create depth for the seamstress.
as she lifts a dress I press my face to my page
where I wrote her name, I close my eyes and feel her here
What is it about craft that binds your hands to mine?
oil sings the tune of the sewing machine
we could not afford for you in our early years away from home.
Alonso Llerena is a Peruvian writer, visual artist, and educator. He has earned an MFA from Bard: Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts. His work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, FENCE, the Offing, and elsewhere. His manuscript in progress, La Casa Roja, was a finalist for the National Poetry Series 2022.